The Science of Selection: Using Best Practices From Industry to Improve Success in Surgery Training

Aimee K. Gardner, Teodor Grantcharov, Brian J. Dunkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background: The selection of high-quality applicants is critical to the future of surgery. However, it is unclear if current practices meet industry criteria of a successful selection system, as measured by administrative efficiency and performance and attrition of those selected. Methods: We performed a modified systematic review process to gain an understanding of current selection processes, remediation practices, and attrition rates in surgery residency training programs in the United States. We also conducted semistructured interviews with local residency program directors and coordinators to obtain a specific snapshot of the amount of time and resources dedicated to these activities in various sized programs. The associated financial costs of these activities are also presented. Results: The administrative costs for current residency selection processes are substantial, ranging from $45,000 to $148,000 for each program per year. Approximately 30% of residents require at least 1 remediation intervention, costing programs $3400 to $5300 per episode, and typically involve concerns around nontechnical skills. Attrition rates range from 20% to 40%. Conclusions: This review suggests that additional methodologies may allow surgery residency programs to identify best-fit candidates more efficiently and effectively, while also decreasing remediation and attrition rates. Possible solutions include incorporation of structured interviews, personality inventories, and situational judgment tests. Resources dedicated to current interview practices, remediation efforts, and attrition management can be redirected to support these methodologies. By applying the science of selection and assessment to the recruitment process, programs may be able to make more data-driven decisions to identify candidates who will be successful at their institution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Applicants
  • Attrition
  • Cost
  • Practice Based Learning & Improvement
  • Recruitment
  • Remediation
  • Selection
  • Systems-Based Practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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